|A forthy mug of uni flan at Fifth Floor|
It was even one of the mystery ingredients in the recent chef challenge at the SF Chefs festival. Michael Hung (La Folie), who showcases uni on his fall menu, likes how the oceanic, fresh-from-the sea, almost iodine-like flavors works well to highlight the pure flavors of his dishes. Plus, he points out, uni is a local product - it’s coming from Mendocino or Santa Barbara - and chefs are always looking to embrace new regional ingredients. Below you’ll find eight restaurants where you wouldn’t expect to find uni that are doing it deliciously well.
Fifth Floor: Since taking over this sophisticated SoMa lair, David Barzigan has been wowing customers with some iteration of a uni flan on his menu. The current version (shown above) is a Mendocino uni flan that incorporates Dungeness crab, saffron, Sichuan pepper and aged kaffir lime (12 4th St.; 415- 348-1555).
SPQR: We’re not sure if they serve this in Rome, but over at his Italian trattoria on Upper Fillmore, chef Matthew Accarrino presents smoked fettuccini topped with sea urchin, smoked bacon and a soft quail egg (1911 Fillmore St.; 415-771-7779).
La Folie: At the French-leaning Polk Streeter, chef de cuisine Michael Hung serves uni and poached Monterey abalone salad over a tartar of cauliflower garnished with dashi foam and pickled baby beets (2316 Polk St.; 415-776-5577).
Atelier Crenn: French chef Dominique Crenn constantly plays with the flavors of uni on her whimsical menu at her Marina atelier. These days she’s pairing uni with caviar, smoked butternut squash, yarrow, dashi and oxalis (3127 Fillmore St.; 415-440-0460).
Jardinière: Traci des Jardins just overhauled the menu at her 15-year old Hayes Valley boite, and low and behold, one of the new dishes is spaghetti garnished with Fort Bragg sea urchin and sweet cayenne peppers, which is available in both small and entrée portions (300 Grove St.; 415-861-5555).
Commonwealth: Over at this progressive American Mission restaurant, chef Jason Fox pairs sea urchin with sea beans, kumquats and quail egg with a brown rice cracker and pickled wasabi leaf (2224 Mission St.; 415-355-1500).
La Ciccia: At this Sardinian sleeper in Noe Valley, chef Massimiliano Conti prepares what he calls “Pasta Cruzza cun Arrizzonisi e Cori de Tonnu,” an umami-packed fresh fusilli pasta in tomato sauce gilded with sea urchin and cured tuna heart (291 30th St.; 415-550-8114).
Baker and Banker: You won’t want to miss out on the good-ole American desserts at this Pacific Heights bistro, but chef Jeffrey Banker sneaks sea urchin into a dish of Mirin- and soy-braised cod that's accompanied by Mendocino uni and shiitake sticky rice and charred bok choy (1701 Octavia St.; 415-351-2500).